Friday, 25 January 2013

Guest Top 5 Bands or artists spun off or affiliated with the Brian Jonestown Massacre by here_comes_B

A brief interlude to my incessant review of the year. This is partly because @here_comes_B provided me with this stonking top five within about two minutes of me asking him to do one, and partly due to my lack of progress with the next 2012 top five. I know @here_comes_B (otherwise known as Mat) thanks to the wonderful interconnectedness of Twitter. Mat is a friend of a friend who loves music and is a regular 6music listener. He has displayed an in depth knowledge of both The Brian Jonestown Massacre (as evident below) and Jane's Addiction as well as having a keen nose for exciting new music. If you're on Twitter you should follow him from one of those links I've included above. Over to Mat ...

According to musical folklore, well over 70 people have played in Anton Newcombe's Brian Jonestown Massacre over the years. He's probably fired or had more people quit than our own Mark E Smith. That said, there's a bit in Ondi Timoner's film Dig! where Anton alludes to shaking up the industry and I think this is all part of the plan. I think of the Brian Jonestown Massacre as the ultimate "hothouse" for training up bands. Many Brian Jonestown alumni have also gone onto start their own bands, here's my top 5 bands/artists who've started other bands or grown in popularity after being in or affiliated with the BJM.

1. Joel Gion/Dilettantes - erstwhile tambo player and true star of Dig!, Joel Gion started a 60s sounding band called the Dilettantes in the mid noughties and toured with them. Lately he's done a solo single which kept the vibe truly 60s but was a lot of fun. Try Dilettantes "the whole world". He is a nice man IRL. Funny too.

Watch The Dillettantes "Ready To Go" on YouTube

2. The Warlocks - Bobby Hecksher I think played drums in the BJM and now has a wonderful, dronerock band, sometimes featuring as many as 3 or 4 guitarists, called the Warlocks. Look up "Death, I hear you walking", it's terrifyingly brilliant.

Watch The Warlocks "Death, I Hear You Walking" on YouTube

3. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Peter of BRMC is in Dig! I think Anton taught him how to play guitar too. Black Rebel make a big, dark noise. Try "Aya" out for size off of "Beat The Devil's Tattoo".

Watch Black Rebel Motorcycle Club "Aya" on YouTube

4. Sarabeth Tucek - Sarabeth wrote a song which Anton covered. Both versions are wonderful. Since then Sarabeth had a wonderfully melancholic, folky LP out on Sonic Cathedral. It's well worth a look. The BJM track she wrote (+sang) is called "The Seer" and is on BJM EP "We Are The Radio". I think her version is called "Something For You". The title track of her LP "Get Well Soon" will put tears in the corner of your eyes.

Watch Sarabeth Tucek "Something For You" on YouTube

5. Miranda Lee Richards - is another one who features in Dig! She sings on one of the early to mid-era BJM albums. Her album "The Herethereafter" shoulda been massiver. Check "Long Goodbye". What a lovely voice, eh?

Watch Miranda Lee Richards "Long Goodbye" on YouTube

I probably missed a few (Matt Hollywood was in another band but I don't know who). I am not counting the Dandy Warhols neither, as they were a separate band.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Top 5 Albums of 2012

This is my favourite of the end of year top fives but also the one I found hardest to compile. There are at least another five albums I'd have happily included in the top five, but these were the ones I felt provided the soundtrack to my year.

1. Godspeed You! Black Emperor "Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!" - An unheralded return for everyone's favourite post-rock champions. Their return to the live stage two years ago suggested this was possible but I was expecting a little more warning. I read a tweet from The Quietus in the morning and by the afternoon had ordered a copy and downloaded the digital version. I love Godspeed but their last recorded output (2002's Yanqui U.X.O.) and a feeling of disappointment after their reunion no-longer-on-hiatus shows had left me ambivalent to new material. That all changed when I actually played it, though the surprise nature of it's arrival no doubt also helped. Allelujah is probably their most concise and accessible release since the Slow Riot EP. Mladic and We Drift Like Worried Fire are both epic 20 minute plus tracks that benefit from having been a part of the bands live show for some time. They sound familiar yet fresh and, for me, the length is not in any way daunting. Mladic in particular is a song I can play again and again without getting tired of. The two shorter drone based tunes that intersperse the longer tracks are essential to the overall balance of the album. They help created that moody and mysterious atmosphere that characterised the band's early days. I saw them live in November and it might have been the best live performance I've seen them give. They even played a spectacular 45 minute track which has not yet been released which bodes well for their future.

2. The Jim Jones Revue "The Savage Heart" - The buzz prior to the album release was that The Savage Heart would see the band explore new musical territory. This led to some talk amongst my pals as to whether this was a worrying turn of phrase. Turned out we had nothing to be worried about, the record is excellent and they're still an amazing act live. The album does display a broader palette than their previous releases but essentially the fundamental love of primal rock'n'roll is very much still in place. If anything the introduction of a few slower paced tunes (and I don't mean slow just less frenetic than previous efforts) will give everyone a chance for a breather when they play live. That's not to say the album doesn't have it's fair share of stompers. Opener It's Gotta be About Me and Where Da Money Go? are as in your face as anything of the previous two LPs, whilst In And Out Of Harm's Way is a brooding masterpiece at the heart of the record.

3. Laura J Martin "The Hangman Tree" - This came out in January, so I've lived with it for a long time now but it's charms are still as strong as when I first heard it. Marc Riley had played a fair bit of Laura in 2011 as well as hosting a couple of sessions, so I was already familiar with her best songs and chomping at the bit for the release of an album. At it's heart this is folk with a contemporary twist. It highlights Laura's multiple instrumental talents whilst never sounding overblown and has some moments of genuinely sublime song writing. In some ways I was disappointed the album didn't get broader exposure but the benefit of this was that I saw her live three times last year in small venues. Laura is in her element on stage with every show featuring at least one new song I suspect it won't be long before album number two.

4. Neil Cowley Trio "The Face Of Mount Molehill" - Another album from the early part of the year for which my love has not faded several months on. This is basically a Jazz album but one that exists in the Venn diagram overlap formed by Jazz, Rock and Adult Pop. I've talked about my reasons for taking an interest in Neil before (short version; He used to live across the road and he's a Fulham fan) and I'd enjoyed previous album Loud... Louder... Stop!. Mount Molehill may well be his magnum opus though. It took a little while for it to sink in, and seeing him play live at the Queen Elizabeth Hall certainly helped, but once it did it seemed like these were tunes I'd known forever.

5. Field Music "Plumb" - It has been a remarkable year for Field Music capped by a well deserved Mercury prize nomination. Field Music only really clicked for me after seeing them live at the end of 2011 and I'm still finding my way through their extensive back catalogue. Plumb finds the band exploring the unlikely territory between Indie-Pop and Progressive Rock. They comfortably avoid any of the excesses of the Prog era (no song breaks the 4 minute barrier) but manage deliver some exquisitely clever music along the way. I kind of saw them live twice in 2012. The first show at KCLSU went a little awry for me but their gig later in the year at the Electric Ballroom in Camden was a triumph.


Friday, 11 January 2013

Top 5 Songs of 2012

After my random trawl through the tuneage of last year (here if you've not been keeping up) it seemed the best place to begin regular top fives again was with my favourite songs of the year. I realise (having read EVERYBODY else's before Christmas) I'm in a minority doing my end of year lists in January rather than December but I really hadn't nailed down any of my choices until very late in December.

1. "Sunshine Hotel" David Tattersall - David Tattersall is vocalist and guitarist in The Wave Pictures, a band I quite like but not one I'd previously gone overboard for. This track is from a limited edition solo album he released on vinyl only. As with most new music I first heard it on Marc Riley's 6music show when it made me stop in my tracks and just listen. A simply stunning piece of guitar playing which echoes John Fahey and a glorious tune that I suspect I've played more than any other tune this year. It has also made me consider revisiting Mr Fahey. At time of writing you can still buy & stream the album at the following link -

2. "Hey Jane" Spiritualized - Continuing on a theme Spiritualized's 2012 album "Huh" was another close contender for my best of the year. I've had an up and down love affair with Jason Pierce's band but after seeing the band play a storming show at the Hackney Empire in March I was convinced to get the new album and reckon it's easily their best since "Ladies & Gentlemen ..." -

Err, the video is almost certainly NOT SAFE FOR WORK but it is a fine piece of film so I've kept it in place, best not hit play if you're easily offended

3. "The Gravedigger's Song" Mark Lanegan - First track off the excellent "Blues Funeral" another record that just missed my top five album cut. It starts with a booming bass line, which is always going to win my favour, and features Lanegan's familiar vocal style, though perhaps with some of the rough edges smoothed out -

4. "Serpents" Sharon Van Etten - "Tramp" was a massive contender for my top five albums but, after some agonising over the final choices, didn't make my final cut. It's an album packed full of sublime songwriting. I don't think there's a weak track on there which makes it difficult to pick a favourite. "Serpents" was the tune I think I heard first and it still brings a smile to my lips when I hear it -

5. "Husbands" Savages - Another full on bass line that rumbles along throughout the song. Jehnny Beth's vocals are a little reminiscent of early Siouxsie Sioux, which is no bad thing, and, whilst there's the whiff of industry hype behind them, there's no doubt they're a pretty exciting prospect for 2013. I'm off to check them out live in February -


Friday, 4 January 2013

Top 5 New Year Resolutions 2013

Hello and a Happy New Year to anyone who didn't follow my possibly monotonous series of Songs for Xmas over the last few days. I had suggested my first top five of the year was going to be my favourite tunes of 2012 but I've decided to put that back a week and focus on the year ahead instead.

For the second year in succession I failed pretty miserably with all of my resolutions. You can check them out in full here but below is a summary of my complete lack of will power;

Play Guitar - I'd really love to achieve this but the key to playing the guitar well is spending a lot of time practicing and I just don't have enough free time to fit this in. I managed to keep going until around mid-feb but haven't picked it up since.

Decide what I want to be when I grow up - Yeah right. I think we all know I'm unlikely to grow up any time soon so I can safely kick this into touch for a little while yet.

Finish the year no heavier than I start it - *cough* Probably not if I'm honest.

Get more done at weekends - Possibly, though not entirely what I intended. Certainly the DIY list hasn't got any smaller.

Find a cool hat - Geez. I even failed to complete the simplest of tasks. Mrs Top Five did buy me a summer hat which was close, but it sat a bit awkwardly on my head so we took it back and never sorted out a replacement.

So, what I have learned from this experience. A) I am crap at keeping resolutions, B) Perhaps I'm aiming too high, C) It's all the blog's fault. I was going to skip resolutions all together but then inspiration struck and I'm going to give it one last shot.

1. Blog a little less - I like my weekly post schedule as without it I probably wouldn't write anything but I'd like to improve my writing and make it more interesting for people to read. To help me out here I'm going try some non-top five posts to fill in the gaps. I've got a couple of ideas but will see how they turn out before announcing them. Hopefully that will mean the top fives I do write will be worth reading. I'm also on the look out for more guest contributions, so if you fancy writing one let me know.

2. Exercise at least three times a week - I'm 45 this year (I think) and need to sort out my fat stomach, so I'm gonna try to eat more healthily again but more importantly I'm going to get back on track with my exercise rota. I made too many excuses last year to skip exercise and don't intend to do the same this year.

3. Learn about Flags & Capitals & The Periodic Table - Mrs Top Five and I are big fans of Pointless, and quiz shows in general. We've realised the benefit of knowing certain easy to learn facts and in particular, flags of the world, capital cities and the Periodic table. I'm going to try and learn all three. You can test me in December and see how well I did.

4. Cook more regularly - I like cooking and do the roast every Sunday but my recipe repertoire is a little limited. I'm going to add a few new dishes that hopefully the kids will like as well and try and help out a bit more with the weekly struggle of deciding what to eat when we're all together.

5. Find A Cool Hat - Blimey, I mean how hard can this one be!


Wednesday, 2 January 2013

12 Songs for Xmas - Twelve Day

"Emmylou" First Aid Kit

The album was released back in January and gradually seeped into my consciousness to the point where I realised I like nearly every song on it despite not actually owning a copy yet. I almost went for "Wolf" instead but the video for that is a bit ropey in places and reminds me a little too much of the pagan ritual at the end of the film Kill List that I've still not quite shaken out of my head.


Tuesday, 1 January 2013

12 Songs for Xmas - Eleventh Day


"Inbetweens" Withered Hand

*whispers* Morning, how's your head? Thought I'd better quieten things down a bit today so here's something a little introspective from Withered Hand the nom-de-plume of Scottish musician Dan Willson.